Ways to make the older adult's kitchen and bathrooms safer

Solutions that make home pathways safe include:

  • Clearing pathways and exits

  • Securing or removing rugs and mats

  • Easing floor level changes

  • Moving cords out of pathways

  • Adding lights around the bedroom

  • Making bigger changes

Clearing pathways and exits

Keep all hallways and paths where the older adult walks clear of furniture, piles of stuff or anything else that could cause people to trip. You also might want to rearrange furniture to make pathways wider. People who use wheelchairs need a clear 5-foot-by-5-foot area to turn around in the chair.

To make doorways wider, replace standard door hinges with offset or swing-clear door hinges.

If the older adult has a dog, cat or other uncaged indoor pet, the pet and its toys can also be fall risks. Encourage the older adult to check where the pet is before walking and not leave pet toys lying around.

Make sure that pathway areas are well-lit. Sight is part of the sense of balance. More lighting can help people with vision problems see their surroundings better.

Keep areas well-lit by replacing burned-out light bulbs. Add table or floor lamps, or night lights, especially around pathways. It might be helpful to add more light fixtures or switches.

Securing or removing rugs and mats

If there are any rugs or mats that can slide in the older adult's home, you can:

  • Secure them with double-faced carpet tape or rubber matting

  • Replace them with rugs or mats that have slip-resistant backing

  • Remove them

If there are rugs or mats with carpet tape or slip-resistant backing, check them occasionally. Both wear away over time and will eventually need to be replaced.

Easing floor level changes

If doorway thresholds are higher than the floor next to them, replace them with lower or angled thresholds or remove them.

If the floor height changes as you walk through the older adult's home, you can:

  • Add curved or angled transition molding, end molding or ramp trims to smooth the change.

  • Add transition strips or overlap reducers between different floor types, like wood, carpet and tile.

  • Use a strip of tape or a paint of a contrasting color to clearly mark any remaining floor height changes.

Moving cords out of the pathways

Keep electrical cords away from hallways, doorways and other pathways.

As much as possible, arrange furniture so that lamps and other things with cords can be plugged directly into electrical outlets (without using extension cords).

If you do need to use extension cords:

  • Run the cords along walls and tape them down. Don't use nails or staples, which could damage the cord.

  • Don't put rugs, furniture or other objects on top of electrical cords. This could damage the cord and create a fire hazard.

  • Check and replace any electrical cords that are damaged.

  • Use cord covers to help prevent wear and tear.

Adding lights around the bedroom

To improve night-time safety, make sure that the older adult's bedroom:

  • Has lamps or switches within reach of each bed, so the older adult can see better when getting up at night - touch lamps can be easier to turn on

  • Has night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways, especially pathways between the bedroom and bathroom

  • Has a working flashlight within reach of each bed, in case of power outages or other problems

  • Has a telephone that the older adult can reach from the bed or the bedroom floor

Making bigger changes

Many options to make home pathways safer are easy to do at little to no cost, like removing clutter, moving cords or adding lamps.

However, if the older adult wants to make bigger changes, like adding light switches, then hiring someone might be your best option.

Work with the older adult to prioritize the changes that will make the home safer, and to determine what you have time and money to do. The older adult's insurance or local aging agencies can tell you if there are programs to support work that increases home safety.

If possible, have the older adult try out any new features or equipment first, to make sure the changes will work well for the older adult.